Chinese students get down to business at Stanislaus State

Top students from an economics university in central China are taking a break to study business and culture American style at California State University, Stanislaus.

Thirteen 20- and 21-year-olds from the Hubei University of Economics in Hubei Province will leave next week for sightseeing stateside after two weeks of dorm living and daily classes at the Turlock campus. Mornings are spent studying American culture and language; afternoons learning about U.S. business and financial practices.

Tuesday, the group got a glimpse of a different U.S. custom: The news conference. Students gamely struggled to think up like-lettered phrases such as “pink peanut” while a half dozen cameras clicked and recorded their class before the media was ushered outside for interviews.

Otherwise, the students’ exposure to small-town U.S. life has focused on fun and food. Their days since arriving June 25 have included trying corn dogs, McDonald’s hamburgers, a swim party and an impromptu dance lesson, said Stanislaus State student Anna Ramos, a dorm resident adviser.

“This will be one of the most significant memories I will treasure all my life,” said Chinese student Kim Chen. The university gym impressed her, as did the in-shape students, she said with a laugh.

Eating turkey legs was a favorite, Hot Tamales candies were a dud, for student Jerry Zeng – “Jerry” being his self-picked American name. But more than food is very different here, Zeng said, “You take it easy. We always make everything serious in our country.”

Most of the students chose close-to-English monikers for the session rather than translating their Chinese first names, said Ling Sun, finance faculty chairwoman at Hubei. She said the three-week trip is meant to help promising students bridge the cultural divide.

“These are some of the top students of our campus,” Sun said, adding that she has learned a lot, as well. “It’s interesting,” she said, noting that even the two countries’ stock exchanges have different practices.

Her university is far more crowded, with roughly 20,000 students compared with 9,000 at the Turlock campus, fewer in summer session. Hubei students take courses in blocks: two related 45-minute classes with a 10-minute passing break. Those adding a second major attend Saturdays and Sundays, too, Sun said.

Stanislaus State President Joseph Sheley said he worked to arrange the stay after a 2010 visit to the campus in China and hopes to have Turlock students winging east to experience Hubei within two years.

“This Valley is already pretty well connected to China with trade,” Sheley said. “I’d love to have our business students, in fairly large numbers, take a two- to three-week trip to China.”

Even just having Chinese students here is a benefit, he said. “It gives (Turlock students) a sense of global connection,” he said. “It’s relationship building.”

Thursday, the students will take in a Modesto Nuts baseball game, organizers said. On the Fourth, the group will take in the Turlock parade and evening fireworks at the Stanislaus County Fairground. A trip to San Francisco is in the offing, as is a backyard barbecue with the Sheleys.